I am very concerned by attempts to intimidate journalists and to interfere in the operation of the free press in Malaysia.
The criminal charges filed against former and current editors of The Edge as well as the abrupt replacement of the New Straits Times Press group editor following allegations of pressure applied by several senior UMNO leaders are reminiscent of the authoritarian and bully tactics employed by the Barisan Nasional led government prior to GE14 against media owners, editors and journalists. I ask all Malaysians to join in condemning these actions which are a threat to our democracy.
This government led by UMNO and Bersatu is eager to return the country to a period when the absence of media freedom allowed mega-scandals such as PKFZ, 1MDB, and the Littoral Combat Ship fiasco to take place, leading to the loss of billions of ringgit of public funds. Malaysians will recall that in 2015 The Edge was banned for three months for its reporting on 1MBD.
Since UMNO and Bersatu have been running the government a familiar pattern of corruption, religious bigotry, racism and sheer incompetence has emerged and has reminded Malaysians of all the reasons they voted to kick UMNO and its allies out of power in 2018.
UMNO is launching an assault on the media just as UMNO leaders facing potential convictions in their corruption cases twist the Prime Minister’s arm to call for an election in November. UMNO’s chances of winning an election are hampered by honest and thorough reporting on UMNO/Bersatu scandals such as the missing Littoral Combat Ships, the flailing 5G deal under DNB as well as the government’s dismal handling of the economic crisis and rising cost of living. Rather than deal with the scandals and problems, UMNO predictably attacks the messenger.
The Prime Minister’s remarks on the issue of free press reflect his “say-little and do-even-less” style of leadership.
It is the job of the Prime Minister to inspire confidence in Malaysia. This includes confidence in the professionalism of our law enforcement and investigation agencies and confidence that the freedom of the press will be protected. Without these pillars in order, confidence in our economy will wane and investors will continue to shun Malaysia.
I stand by our media professionals and thank them for the daily contribution they make towards strengthening Malaysia’s democracy. Under my leadership Pakatan Harapan will preserve, protect and enhance independence of the media through legal reform and investment in education and training of media professionals.